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Will the CIA get COPIA right? And, how do those Google search rankings work, anyway?

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I’m glad they’ve finally figured out what to do with the old COPIA building, after all these years. And what is that, you ask? The facility will become “a satellite of the Greystone campus” of the Culinary Institute of America, which itself is in St. Helena, according to Eater.

I wonder if it will work, though. The description of its planned use—“demonstration kitchens, a new restaurant, and an outdoor amphitheater [and] food and wine events…a shop with cooking equipment, books, and specialty foods…and private events such as weddings, business events, and the like,” sounds awfully like what the old COPIA did, minus the museum, which, with all due respect, was never very interesting to begin with. COPIA was a hodgepodge whose total was less than the sum of its individual parts. It never did catch on with the public.

It was said that one of the reasons COPIA never made it was due to the location, on the “wrong” side of the Napa River from downtown Napa. Well, the facility is still in the same place. Granted, more people are lured across the river these days by such attractions as the Oxbow Market. But still, you have to ask yourself if you’d make a destination of seeing a “demonstration kitchen.” I’ve been in a zillion demonstration kitchens, and unless you’re an actual student, studying the technique of a chef, it’s pretty boring. As for a new restaurant, well, Napa Valley has a lot of restaurants. This one will have to be pretty special and different if it wants to survive.

The idea of a “shop” is interesting. What will it be, a sort of Williams Sonoma? (And by the way, there will be a “Chuck Williams tribute museum” on the premises; he was the founder of Williams Sonoma. What sorts of things will they display—his original whisk? An old omelet pan?) And what’s this “books” thing? Cook books? Wine books? John Grisham? I like the idea of shopping for “specialty foods,” but between Oxbow and various markets in St. Helena and Napa (which already has a Whole Foods), that market is going to have to be pretty fantastic to lure people to the location.

Of course, the new center will probably be a very nice place to have a wedding or corporate retreat, but again, it’s going to have to compete against all the country clubs, wineries and restaurants in Napa Valley that already cater to that crowd. So I’m kind of scratching my head. I wish the new CIA center good luck, but if it was an IPO, I wouldn’t buy in.

* * *

Just for the heck of it, I Googled “wine,” then clicked on “News,” and the number one hit was this Wall Street Journal article on New Jersey wines.

I have no opinion whatsoever on New Jersey wines, never having had any, unless you count the Manischewitz I occasionally tasted and hated when I was a little boy at my cousins’ house in Teaneck. But I do have questions about this result. Why is the WSJ article #1 on Google News/wine? How do you get to that coveted position? I feel like I should know; I’ve asked lots of people to explain it to me, and many have, in endless prose, until my eardrums revolted. But I still don’t get it: how do you end at the top of a pretty generalized Google search? Does it cost a lot of money? If so, the “hit” results should have asterisks, indicating they may have been purchased. This is called transparency, the value we all claim to worship.

There’s a less sinister explanation: The Wall Street Journal is one of the nation’s most important newspapers. Lettie Teague has earned her way into the top ranks of today’s thoughtful wine writers. These things in themselves may explain the Google rankings: sheer popularity. Still, I wish somebody could really explain it to me in a way that makes sense.

  1. I think you have mischaracterized CIA @ Copia Steve. It is not another version of the original Copia. Visitors will consist primarily of people who want to take short courses, “weekend chefs” but are not CIA students. The latter will continue to be taught at the mother ship which will now be able to devote more space to those seeking diplomas and other forms of certification.

  2. Bob Henry says:

    Excerpt from ComputerWorld Online Edition
    (February 21, 2013):

    “An Inside Look at Google’s News-ranking Algorithm”

    http://www.computerworld.com/article/2495365/business-intelligence/an-inside-look-at-google-s-news-ranking-algorithm.html

    By Jaikumar Vijayan

    “Since it was launched in 2002, Google News has become the largest aggregator of news content on the Web. The site, which is completely computer-generated, collects and display headlines from thousands of news sources around the world.

    “The metrics cited in the patent application include: the number of articles produced by a news organization during a given time period; the average length of an article from a news source; and the importance of coverage from the news source.

    “Other metrics include a breaking news score, usage patterns, human opinion, circulation statistics and the size of the staff associated with a particular news operation.

    “Also factored in are the number of news bureaus a news source has, the number of original named entities used in stories, breadth of coverage, international diversity and even writing style.”

    As Groucho Marx famously quipped in character as Rufus T. Firefly in the movie “Duck Soup”:

    “Why a four-year-old child could understand this report. [Aside:] Run out and find me a four-year-old child. I can’t make head nor tail out of it.”

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